Raising a successful child requires a parent to be proactive in their parenting approach. This means, knowing when battles may ensue and knowing how to navigate through those battles, beforehand. Setting clear expectations and limitations, modeling behavior, teaching how to make responsible choices and allowing your child to learn through natural consequences will enable your child to become a self-reliant, independent, and responsible young adult.
Setting Expectations and Limitations
Establishing a set routine will create a comfort zone for your child. Routines help children to know what is expected of them and when; additionally, routines help children learn responsibility and independence. Having a consistent routine will establish unspoken expectations and limitations. It is important to let your ‘no’ mean ‘no’ and your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’. The approach to your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in setting expectations and limitations sets the future mood of your child’s acceptance to these very important ground rules.
The Approach/Modeling Behavior
Have you ever had a battle attempting to set clear expectations and limitations? Parents may find themselves engaged in a fierce battle of wills with their child. The first step, according to Charles Fay, PhD., author of Parenting with Love and Logic, is not to engage your child in an argument. Fay advises parents to not engage in debates or reasons why your child should comply with a request. This is an important time when proactive preparation is required; plan ahead in advance when a potential problem to a request is most likely to ensue. Plan in advance as to what options you will set for your child to choose. For example, if the request is for Johnny to make his bed before leaving for school, you could ask Johnny, “Would you like me to help you make your bed before or after breakfast?” According to Fay, providing children the opportunity to make choices teaches them responsibility.
Realistically, every parent will experience a full-blown tantrum. What is the best solution for tantrums? The best solution is to never give-in to your child’s request or ultimatum to end the tantrum. This is especially the time not to engage your child in conversation or debate. Fay suggests to show empathy to your child’s feelings with an “I know” statement. Acknowledge your child’s feelings but remain firm through your actions and behavior, not through the use of words.
You may be asking yourself, what about the bedtime tantrums, the morning clothing debate and the reluctant eater? This is the perfect opportunity to teach your child about making responsible choices. First, stop potential tantrums by taking the proactive approach. Contemplate, beforehand, any anticipated power struggles. Second, provide two options; if Johnny does not want to eat his dinner, provide him the option of eating it now or later. Let him know that when he is hungry, his dinner will be available. When the time comes when Johnny complains that he is hungry and does not want to eat his left-over dinner and asks for a cookie, show empathy in your tone of voice with an “I know” statement. It is important not to engage your child with previously discussed options.
Natural consequences, which occur as a result of your child’s choices, allow for the opportunity to learn from making mistakes. It also sends a message to your child that failure is okay. With correct parental guidance, children learn to make better choices for themselves; thus, learning how to problem solve and think independently.
In this scenario, five-year old Suzy refuses to follow the family’s morning routine and makes everyone late in the mornings. The parents should lovingly inform Suzy how her choices affect everyone in the family. It is also important to inform her of the upcoming consequences that will follow, if the parents need to the make choices for her. In this case, Suzy does not want to get ready for school in the mornings. If Suzy does not comply with the family routine, then her consequence will mean that she will need to go to school in her pajamas; thus, she will need to bring her clothes, toothbrush, and brush with her to school. In this case, it is best to have previously discussed your plans for Suzy’s with her teacher. Most teachers are supportive with parents in establishing natural consequences. This strategy sends an important message to Suzy that everyone’s time is valuable; chances are, Suzy will be more cooperative with mornings in the future.
Acknowledging your child’s mistakes and showing empathy when your child does not necessarily agree with you will show that you care about how your child feels about their current situation; however, choosing not to engage in a debate will demonstrate your authority as the parent, and will assist your child in learning how to make responsible choices.
Setting clear expectations and limitations, modeling non-argumentative behavior will enable your child to readily accept natural consequences; thus, teaching your child the importance of making responsible choices, now and especially in the future.